The Pro Football Concussion Report

A Fan's Look at Head Injuries and the Concussion Crisis in Football

League of Denial Film Premieres on PBS Tuesday Night

Forensic Pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu (Brain Injury Research Institute)


The long-awaited film “League of Denial” airs on PBS Tuesday night. The documentary about concussions and CTE in the NFL was produced by PBS Frontline and has been promoted heavily on ESPN’s Outside the Lines with Bob Ley. ESPN created additional buzz for the film with the strange announcement that they were removing their name from the project. Some say that was influenced by the NFL, but regardless, the move seemed to generate even more hype for the film.

In excerpts that have been released so far, the film shows Dr. Bennet Omalu as an against-all-odds hero taking on the NFL and the establishment medical community with his findings. Omalu was the pathologist on duty at the Allegheny County coroner’s office in 2002 when the body of Steeler great Mike Webster was scheduled for autopsy.

In 2010, Omalu described to Ohio Valley’s NBC-WTOV9 the moment when he decided to go one step further with Webster’s brain than he would with the typical examination:


“There was this moment I remember. I had the knife in my hand to cut the brain and something in me, I don’t know what it was, I said, ‘No Bennet, fix this brain, examine this brain.”


After the brain has been placed in fix, or the formalin fixation for some period of time up to six weeks the brain can be more easily dissected and examined. Upon dissecting the brain and examining tissue samples through the microscope, Omalu discovered protein buildups in Weaver’s brain that resembled brain damage that had previously only been connected to the sport of boxing.

Omalu named this condition CTE:


“Chronic, meaning long term. Traumatic, meaning induced by trauma. Encephalopathy, meaning brain damage.”


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